Thursday, July 22, 2010

Xi Garden - Review

Xi Garden - Highly Recommended
1 Dongping Rd, Shanghai, China
Phone: 86-21-6474-7052

Our friend Paulina recommended this place and as usual her recommendations were spot on. This will go down as one of the best Chinese food experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve never had Chinese food like this where they were balancing the salt, pepper, sour, and sweetness in such perfect harmony. It was like Thai food, but done so much more delicately and harmoniously - not an intense thai kick to the ribs but more like tai chi chuan form practice. The interesting thing about this place is they mix some western ingredients/techniques in their dishes. Macaroni salad anyone?

Any who the food was pretty damn awesome, but the environment was less than desirable. Like many fancy restaurants in Shanghai, this was situated in an old school mansion where there are private rooms to eat in. Where we ate was the main dining area and unfortunately the Chinese love their cigarettes which can ruin a meal. Thank goodness the ones smoking near us left early on in the meal. Still a phenomenal food experience and I would recommend getting a private room if you have a large enough group.

Our Menu
Mushy Peas *
This dish was interesting and good to eat - a specialty of the place. Basically, peas completely pureed with some sugar and what felt like some oil. It was surprisingly pretty good with the pine nuts mixed in.

Jelly Fish and Cabbage Salad ***

This was a complete WTF revelation to me in terms of the sweet, sour, rich, and saltiness balance that was done so well. This almost felt like a Mexican salad to me with the crunchy cabbage, carrots, and Chinese parsley (like cilantro). The rich sauce was what turned it Chinese though and it was so good I was drinking that sauce down. It had such a rich flavor (massive umami) which I have no idea where it came from – probably MSG I assume? Either way it just completely rocked.

Sauteed Shrimp **
Another amazing dish with these baby shrimps cooked so perfectly – completely succulent and sweet. Add this to the subtle vinegar soy concoction and it was sublime. Again, not intense in the vinegar and salt, but just subtly enhancing the shrimp.

Crab Fried Rice ***
The best fried rice dish I’ve ever had. How they turned this lowly every man food into something as superb as this I have no idea. The flavor and the texture of the rice was spectacular with crab flavor flowing all throughout the rice. The best was finding the crab tamale sprinkled all throughout the rice for a nice intense pop. They actually had the entire crab cut into pieces all throughout this dish and it was cooked perfectly – the best crab flavor and intensely sweet and moist.

Pepper Beef ***

The first thing I noticed is how masterful this sauce was. Great pepper flavor throughout that was balanced by a slight sweetness and intense meaty flavor. The meat was so tender and perfectly cooked throughout. Again, balance was the key thing here and it was perfect. I wish all pepper beef in the states could be like this.

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way * Good ** Great *** What the F – in a good way

Closing Comments
This was a meal for the ages and made me wonder why this style of food does not catch on in the States. Chinese foodie street cred seem to only exist for the low end dive joints – never any high end Chinese food places. Any who, a phenomenal place and 100% want to go back with more peeps.


Ann Flowers said...

nice blog with nice picture of Pepper Beef. Wish If I could share its recipe.

Aramis said...

Thanks Ann. The pepper beef was out of control good. I may start flipping through some of my cookbooks to see if I can find a good recipe. If I find one, it'll definitely be up on the blog :)